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How to Run a Catering Business in South Africa

Strategies for improvement, raising capital, and other guidance for those running a catering business in South Africa

Hospitality and food are a big part of South African culture, so catering businesses in South Africa are a strategic way to do what you love, and make an income from it. Some companies sell food to customers who enjoy those meals away from an outlet, and other catering businesses provide people with their food and beverage needs at events and functions.

How to improve your catering business

An obvious way to improve a catering business would be to add new options that clients can try. A great idea would be to create optional menus that cherish traditional South African food, like chesanyama, bobotie, bunnychows or traditional deserts like koeksusters, or melktert - all South African favourites. 

Understanding your clients’ unique needs is essential. Demonstrate a dedication to them by offering introductory meetings, where you pitch your ideas and take theirs seriously. In follow-up meetings, demonstrate that you’ve applied their needs and requests.

An issue that needs to be considered is load shedding. This is a frequent occurence, as every South African knows, so ensure you prepare for it.


If you are running a catering company that services events and functions you need to plan ahead. Create a timeline and schedule what tasks need to be done when and by whom.

  • List everything that you need to complete the job.
  • Create backup plans for different scenarios, such as a staff shortage or if you are unable to deliver one of the dishes for an unforeseen reason.
  • Organise all the necessary staff in advance, and arrange backup staff in case of any shortfalls.
  • Calculate your costs and divide them into the core categories, such as labour, equipment, food.
  • Organise your food deliveries well in advance.
  • If needed, ensure that you have the necessary equipment to keep the food warm before presenting it to the client.

Strategies to reinvent the business

You could diversify your business by selling other services which your client(s) may need. You can do this by forming partnerships with companies that can supply products and services that are needed for various events. Some examples would be furniture rental, entertainment management agencies, sound equipment rental companies, and mobile bars.

Improving your inventory management

Create an inventory list for set menus based on what is needed for one food item, which you can then multiply by the number of items your clients need.

Measure every single ingredient you are using and calculate the cost for each ingredient. Add all the costs of the ingredients to calculate your food costs per item. Whenever a client needs a certain item, you know exactly what is needed.

If you haven't already, you'll need to use the correct software to improve your inventory management

There are a plethora global software systems you can choose from. Many of these are specifically made for the catering, events, and hotel management industries. The main use of these software products are to keep track of your menu items and accounts.

Doing a competitive analysis of other companies and the industry

You can gather a large amount of data about your competitors online in the following ways:

Have a look at their website and social media pages, and look for the following information.

  • What products and services do they offer?
  • How does their pricing compare to yours?
  • Are they advertising on social media, and if so, how are they doing it?
  • How are they presenting themselves visually?
  • Subscribe to industry reports or magazines

Some examples of catering companies in South Africa include:

Bidvest catering, Reef caterers, Appetite catering.

Interesting facts about the catering industry in South Africa

  • The average catering business in South Africa can make a profit of between R200,000 to R350,000 per annum.
  • South African cuisine is one of the most diverse in the world. It is influenced by Indian, Malaysian, Mexican, French, German, British regions, and various cultures from within South Africa.

Ways to market your catering business

Hosting tasting can be a great direct way to market your service. You can do this for different market segments, like corporate businesses, newly engage couples, charity organisations or schools. 

Utilise social media marketing campaigns, and ensure you target the correct demographic. Above the usual differentiators such as age and location, you can also target people who follow certain groups.

Remeber to:

  • Create attention-grabbing adverts with traffic-driving copy
  • Create visually appealing short videos or blog content

Sourcing finance to grow your catering business

Finding funding in South Africa can be a challenge, but with the right research, intentions and proposal, you should manage to get access. Apart from traditional bank loans, you can consider SEFA (Small Enterprise Finance Agency). Their mission is to improve the foundation and growth of small and medium enterprises. 

Reasons for exiting your business, and how to exit

You should start a business with the end in mind. Even if you don't want to sell your business, it is always beneficial to prepare for it. Some reasons to sell could be to exit it for a certain period, reduce your involvement, retire, or sell it due to circumstances out of our control. 

When you are ready to sell, you should approach a professional to help you. There are multiple considerations to selling a business, so seeking support should be your first step. 

Beginning the process would look like this: 

  • Identifying reasons why you want to exit 
  • Improving parts of your business that are underperforming
  • Improving your paperwork
  • Hiring an advisor 
  • Understanding the process of valuing your business, so you can form a pragmatic assessment of its assets 
  • Begin to get all the necessary documentation in place

Megan Kelly

About the author

Megan is Head of Content Marketing at She is a B2B Content Strategist and Copywriter. She has produced multiple articles that rank on the first page of Google SERPS, and loves creating people-first content.